Israel orders Spanish consulate to stop providing services to Palestinians

Foreign Minister Israel Katz says the order is meant to punish Spain for recognizing a Palestinian state, as feud between Jerusalem and Madrid heats up

Foreign Minister Israel Katz tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Israel said Monday it had ordered Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem to stop offering consular services to Palestinians in the West Bank from June 1, as a “punitive” measure for Madrid’s recognition of a Palestinian state.

The Foreign Ministry said that Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem is “authorized to provide consular services to residents of the consular district of Jerusalem only, and is not authorized to provide services or perform consular activity vis-a-vis residents of the Palestinian Authority.”

The directive is effective from June 1, the ministry said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a separate statement that he had “implemented preliminary punitive measures against the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem following the Spanish government’s recognition of a Palestinian state.”

“We will not put up with harming Israel’s sovereignty and security.”

Katz added that “anyone who rewards Hamas and tries to establish a Palestinian terrorist state will not be in contact with the Palestinians.”

A man walks outside the municipality building in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 24, 2024, adorned with flags of Spain, Ireland and Norway. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

“The days of the Inquisition are over. Today, the Jewish people have a sovereign and independent state, and no one will force us to leave our religion or threaten our existence – those who harm us, we will harm in return.”

Spain is one of the European countries that has been most critical of Israel over the war in Gaza.

Last week, Spain, Ireland and Norway announced their decision to recognize a State of Palestine from May 28, drawing a strong rebuke from Israel.

On Sunday, Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares justified his government’s decision to recognize a Palestinian state.

He said in Brussels that the recognition “is justice for the Palestinian people (and) the best guarantee of security for Israel.”

On Sunday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also hosted the PA’s prime minister, Mohammed Mustafa, for international talks on building up the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas to eventually take over Gaza rule from Hamas.

From right, Norway’s Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares Bueno and Ireland’s Foreign Minister Micheal Martin pose for a photo, at the end of a media conference, during talks on the Middle East, in Brussels, May 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

A “strong” Palestinian Authority is needed to bring peace in the Middle East, Borrell said just before going into the meeting with Mustafa.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted throughout the war that the PA would not be allowed to govern Gaza after the war, but the government does not yet have an alternative ready.

On Saturday, Spain also demanded that Israel cease its military campaign in Gaza, in the wake of an ambiguously worded order by the International Court of Justice that Israel interprets more permissively.

Albares said on Monday that he would ask 26 European Union member states to issue official backing to the ICJ and take steps to ensure Israel respects its decisions.

“If Israel continues to pursue against that opinion of the Court, we will try to take the right measures to enforce that decision,” he told reporters in Brussels during a joint news conference with his Irish and Norwegian counterparts.

In a case brought by South Africa alleging the Israeli assault on Gaza amounts to “genocide,” the ICJ ordered Israel on Friday to “immediately halt” its ground and air offensive in Rafah.

Palestinians sit by the rubble of a family house that was hit overnight in an Israeli airstrike in the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood of Rafah in southern Gaza on May 20, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

The war in Gaza broke out on October 7 with Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel in which terrorists murdered some 1,200 people and took 252 hostages.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The toll, which cannot be verified and does not differentiate between terrorists and civilians, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle.

Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

According to an IDF tally, 288 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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